Script: Tejas Harad
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
Senior Editor: Aditya Menon
Sushma Andhare first came into the limelight after her firebrand speech at Shiv Sena's Dussehra Melava rally at Shivaji Park, Mumbai on 5 October 2022. In her high-voltage speech, she attacked the Eknath Shinde camp and Bharatiya Janata Party and mocked leaders like Narayan Rane, while expressing her strong allegiance to party chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Andhare was born on 8 November 1984 in a remote village in Latur in an extremely marginalised nomadic tribe. She grew up away from her father, at her maternal grandparents' place. Her grandfather, from the Kolhati community, was a Kabirpanthi and taught Andhare to live with dignity and respect. She has a daughter with her ex-husband Vaijanath Waghmare, whom she has named Kabira after her idol saint Kabir.
Many were surprised that Andhare was given the opportunity to speak at the prestigious Dussehra rally so soon after joining Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) as she had joined the party only on 28 July. She is one of the very few women to have spoken at this forum.
Andhare is a strong Ambedkarite and wears this identity on her sleeves. She ended her Dussehra speech with the slogan 'Jai Bhim,' which, she later confessed in an interview, might have been a first for the Shiv Sena's Dussehra rally.
Seen with the fact that Andhare had converted to Buddhism in 2006, many were perplexed by her decision to join a Hindutvavadi party. In her Dussehra speech, she addressed this by saying,
"Which ovi, which shloka, which abhanga, which hymn in the Hindu religion says that to be a hardline Hindu, you must hate Muslims, Christians, Buddhists?"
In an interview with a Marathi news channel, she further tried to justify her decision by stating that Shiv Sena before its alliance with the BJP was different from Shiv Sena after the alliance. She claimed that Shiv Sena took a more hardline position on Hindutva after joining hands with the saffron party in 1980s.
A Leader to Look Out For
Andhare is currently on a statewide Maha Prabodhan Yatra, and her meetings are attracting huge crowds. She also readily filled in the position of Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut as Andhare's initial days in the party coincided with Raut going to jail on corruption charges. She has attracted ample media attention for her pull-no-punches barbs aimed at opponents, quick retorts and witty remarks.
Irrespective of whether the Thackeray camp manages to withstand the Shinde rebellion in the long run, Andhare is one leader to watch out for in the Maharashtra politics.